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The Galactic Empire has landed in the Middle Kingdom.
As the final full trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens rolled out online early this week, Disney unleashed its marketing blitz in China for the J.J. Abrams film on the country’s iconic Great Wall.
Creating a world-class selfie opportunity for the legions of Chinese fans who turned up for the event, 500 Stormtrooper figures were arranged in marching formation on the steps leading up to one of the Wall’s guard towers. Disney also handed out hundreds of red and blue light sabers and other merchandise.
While Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set to open Dec. 18 in the U.S. and other international territories, Disney doesn’t have a release date yet for the film in China, the world’s second-biggest but most heavily protected major movie market.
In the meantime, the studio is doing all it can to bring the Chinese masses up to speed on the adventures of Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Lord Vader. None of the first three installments in the space saga screened in Chinese cinemas. When Star Wars: A New Hope premiered in 1977, China was just emerging from the ravages of the Cultural Revolution — Western entertainment was neither allowed nor of particular interest to most of the country’s shell-shocked and impoverished population.
Much has changed since then.
In October, Disney and 20th Century Fox signed a deal with Chinese online giant Tencent making all six films in the Star Wars franchise available for streaming via the company’s popular Internet video services. Tencent also has created a dedicated Star Wars hub offering official merchandise, character bios, shorts, deleted scenes, video featurettes and a curated collection of classic Star Wars extras from each of the original films.
On Tuesday night, the Great Wall was alight with giant billboard-sized characters reading “The Force Awakens” in Chinese.
It’s not clear whether it was visible from space.
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